SWAT: Global Strike Team Interview
Today we have the wonderful opportunity and pleasure to speak with a representative from Vivendi Universal Games about their upcoming Xbox title:
SWAT: Global Team Strike.
Q: Now before we begin (I apologize for the pun) assaulting you with questions, could you please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your job within the SWAT project?
A: My name is Jeff Buccellato, senior producer for Vivendi Universal Interactive and working on SWAT: GST. I’m overseeing the day-to-day progress of the title with the Developer, Argonaut Games, coordinating various aspects on the publishing side from scheduling to working with Marketing, QA, and PR efforts.
Q: This seems to be a totally new version of SWAT unlike any of the others that have been produced to this point. Could you tell us a little about the story behind SWAT: Global Team Strike?
A: SWAT: GST’s storyline takes place in 2016 with the world facing threats from globally organized criminal organizations and terrorist groups. An international offshoot from the SWAT organizations of America, the Global Strike Teams are tasked with aiding countries and organizations around the world to resolve highly volatile situations where lives are at stake and national and global security is compromised.
SWAT: Global Strike Team puts the player in the role of Kincaid, the element leader of one of the 3-person global strike teams, moving through unfolding, globe trotting missions that tell of one such worldwide threat that the Global Strike Teams were created to deal with.
Q: SWAT began as a spin-off of the popular PC series Police Quest almost a decade ago and has always been touted as a 'tactical simulation' game. Sierra is saying this next installment is going to be more of an arcade style game. What was the reasoning behind this shift in focus and what aspects of the game play are going to be changed to achieve this?
A: SWAT: GST verges off the path of the previous SWAT titles to come before it. Whereas the past SWAT titles have been rooted in the present day, with extreme attention to detail, and game play that is much more strategic and methodical, SWAT: GST is set in the near future giving development liberties to crafting game scenarios, and has an action-oriented emphasis to better suit it for console game play.
Even though SWAT: GST is the next product from Vivendi Universal Games with the “SWAT” name to it, I see it more as a spin-off rather than the next installment in the series. Development of the title has taken a different focus with SWAT: GST than with previous SWAT products so that the title would play well on the console platforms. For SWAT: GST, the emphasis is placed on action and not so much on the details of loading out your team with an assortment of equipment, determining entry point for a mission, and micro-managing each team member’s movement within the game.
To this end, SWAT: GST has redesigned game play in various areas. It’s a squad-based shooter that uses 3-person teams (you and up to two AI team characters) as opposed to a typical SWAT team of 5 or more. This provides for a streamlined command interface with your team members that allows for team involvement without pulling the player away game play to manage them or sacrificing action. Equipment is another element that has been designed accordingly. The equipment in SWAT: GST is there to promote fast-paced game play and chosen for its “wow” factor, from the Flash-Bangs to the various lethal weapons, even trademark glow sticks that come in handy in Co-Op mode for marking cleared areas. While something like an opti-wand is very appropriate for the Police Quest games, allowing the player to lean around corners or slightly open doors provides for the same functionality without slowing the game experience. Lastly, the method of input is different with SWAT: GST, it being designed around a console’s controller as opposed to a keyboard/mouse and includes the optional method of voice communication to your team mates and suspects through a headset. All these areas have been thought through during development to ensure that SWAT: GST is well suited for the console platforms while not compromising what “SWAT” is.
Q: Many gamers place a lot of their emphasis on the arsenal of guns and other toys at their disposal. What type of weaponry will be available to gamers in SWAT?
A: SWAT: GST offers up an assortment of tactical aids and weapons for the player to use within a given mission. For every mission, you are automatically equipped with night-vision goggles, a gas mask, binoculars, glow sticks, nylon ties, and a less-than-lethal tranquilizer gun. Furthermore, you may load out with one type of grenade, flash-bangs, CS grenades, EMP grenades, or concussion grenades and a lethal weapon such as an assault rifle, shotgun, submachine gun and in some cases a sniper rifle, all of which may be upgraded with larger magazines, recoiling dampeners, scopes, etc. throughout the game.
Q: The new SWAT game is touted as being a 'Squad Based' action game. It looks like SWAT may have some major competition from other such games such as Rainbow Six 3, Ghost Recon and Brute Force. What will SWAT be offering that players won't be able to get elsewhere?
A: It’s true that SWAT: GST is a “Squad Based” action game and by that virtue places it into a competitive arena. SWAT: GST sticks to a core game element that the popular Police Quest series has maintained for the years; it puts the player into the role of law enforcement. This is much different than any other “shoot ‘em up” role in that, for law enforcement, there is no “acceptable loss of life”. Avoiding any casualties, rescuing hostages, and arresting the suspects are the goals to any mission. That’s not to say there’s no shooting going on in SWAT: GST, there is. It’s a last resort when there are no other options left to the player. In SWAT: GST, there are always options and game play is geared towards reinforcing this as opposed to the “shoot first, shoot again, and then ask questions” that other squad based shooters seem geared towards. It’s a unique way to play and adds an extra degree of gaming throughout the entire product not found in other titles within the genre.
Q: Were there any steps taken to ensure realistic game play such as, let’s say, development team members going through SWAT training or anything like that?
A: Argonaut Games team members didn’t go through the exhaustive SWAT training that the Police Quest development team has been through but have had access to the wealth of information provided by the Police Quest team members who have had firsthand experience with SWAT training. The opportunity was also taken for Argonaut to interact with SWAT consultants early on in the game’s development to ensure that design of the game play felt right.
Q: Definitely one of the most exciting features to SWAT is the 'voice recognition headset'. Can you tell us about how the voice recognition works and how much success you've had with it up to this point?
A: Voice recognition within SWAT: GST is a natural extension for such a title. Its design and focus is geared towards single-player game play enhancements allowing the user to interact and order his team mates through a mission as well as further immerse him into the role of SWAT barking out compliances at suspects to “drop our weapon” or get “down on the ground”.
Admittedly, I was skeptical of this feature prior to trying it out. I must say though, 5 minutes after firing up the game, I had a co-working coming into my office to see what all the commotion was about. I found myself ordering my team mates here and there all the while screaming at the enemies to “drop their “*!?&%” weapons. The game can be played without the headset but I’m totally hooked playing it that way now.
For everyone that sees and uses this feature, they tend to like its implementation. We’ve had a lot of comments that now people have a game that they can use their headset for something more than to speak to another person in a multiplayer game.
Q: Another neat development we have seen mentioned is a new graphical system called 'iris'. Could you tell us a little bit about how that works, and about any other new graphics techniques this game will employ?
A: Argonaut Games has developed what they are calling an “iris effect”. Simply put, what the user experiences in the game is the same thing he does in real life when his eyes need to adjust from extremes in lighting, say from walking out into a sunny day from a dimly lit room or vise versa. Moving into a well-lit area within the game provides that bright, washed out look making it hard to see things off in the distance until the eyes adjust bringing the environment into focus and light balance. The same holds true for looking at or stepping into unlit areas. Until the eyes adjust bringing clarity to these areas, elements such as enemies could easily lurk there and the player would only become aware of them should they fire upon him or his eyes adjusted providing clearer focus.
Q: How long of a game will this be to someone interested in blowing through it as fast as possible? Also, how many maps will be available to play on?
A: For someone interested in blowing through the game as fast as possible, it holds about 25 hours of solid game play just on the single-player game alone taking the player through 21 maps. There are other game variants to extend this however. Offered are co-op and deathmatch modes (10 unique maps of its own) as well as a mode we have dubbed “Time Attack”. Time Attack can be played single-player or cooperatively and essentially a player has a certain amount of time to finish a mission. If he kills a suspect or hostage, time is subtracted but if he should save a hostage or arrest a suspect he receives a time bonus. This adds a different and interesting way to play the missions.
Q: Xbox Live compatibility has been announced in the form of downloadable content and online stat tracking. Could you tell us more about how these systems will work?
A: SWAT: GST provides for Xbox Live support with both downloadable content and online stat tracking. The game is architected to allow additional deathmatch levels to be pulled down for game play and for users to post their best Time Attack scores for online stat tracking. Users with Xbox Live accounts can simply access these features from within the game.
Q: Now for some of the nitty-gritty technical details, if you don't mind! What resolutions will SWAT support on the Xbox system? Will the Xbox version have any graphical advantages over the PS2 version of this game?
A: SWAT: GST for the Xbox supports the standard 640 x 480 mode.
Argonaut Games’ development of SWAT: GST is happening in parallel for both the PS2 and Xbox. One of the internal goals during development has been to bring about the best look and feel for SWAT: GST. The Xbox version looks very good with its iris effect, camera filter treatments, and other graphical elements. Likewise, the PS2 has a very comparable look and feel with all the bells and whistles. Argonaut, being conscientious to stick to that goal of pushing the visual quality of the game, hasn’t taken the stance of what graphical advantages they can bring to one version or another but rather to just create the best looking product across the board. To this end, they have done a remarkable job meeting this goal, whether someone enjoys the game on the PS2 or the Xbox.
Q: Now that we all know a little more about this new title from Vivendi Universal games, when can we expect to see this SWAT game in stores?
A: Vivendi Universal Games is expecting SWAT: GST for a worldwide release in the 4th quarter timeframe.
Q: On behalf of our site members and ourselves, we would like to thank you for participating in this interview. Before we leave though, are there any other comments or bits of information that we may have missed that you would like to let the gaming community know about?
A: Vivendi Universal Games and Argonaut Games are poised to bring a different and exciting way to play squad based action games, giving a player the thrill and challenge of SWAT and what that entails. Added features, such as headset support, feel natural and immerse a player into the game that much more. SWAT: GST looks to arrest players’ attentions bringing them SWAT, law-enforcement style game play onto the console systems in a bit way.
Thank you for this interview.